The Legault government plans to use proof of vaccination passport to limit people’s access to non-essential services if the COVID-19 situation worsens in the fall.
Quebec’s Minister of Health and Social Services Christian Dubé made it clear that the rollout of the vaccine passport will not happen until all eligible Quebecers will have had a chance to receive two doses of the vaccine, which is estimated to happen around Sept. 1.
It will not be used, however, for access to public or essential services.
At a news conference Thursday afternoon in Montreal, the minister said rather than locking down sectors of the economy, the vaccine passport will be used to limit access to places like bars, gyms, contact sports and other activities deemed “high” or “moderate” risk.
While he said it is people’s right to choose not to get the vaccine, he said those who choose not to get immunized might be required to self-isolate, get tested, or “not have access” to some activities.
Giving the example of a spike in cases in a specific region, instead of closing down high-contact locations, such as gyms, for a specified period “only the persons that have a double dose can continue to go to the gym.”
“The vaccination passport is going to be used if, and only if, transmission or outbreaks justify us doing so in a certain sector of activity, or a given territory,” the health minister said.
He also issued a plea to young adults between the ages of 18 and 30, the age group with the lowest vaccination rate (67 percent) among all eligible Quebecers, according to provincial data. All other age groups, including 12-17-year-olds, have vaccination rates at 72 percent or higher.
“For many, there is no sense of urgency. I’ll tell you that this is starting to be urgent to give you the first dose in July. If you want to be adequately vaccinated by September 1, things are started to hurry, ” he said.
He said young adults might not necessarily be anti-vaccine, rather they might not view vaccination as a priority.
“It is no more true than ever. Vaccination is our passport to return to normality,” the minister said
Business Owners Can Scan QR Codes
Quebecers have already started to receive their proof of vaccination in the form of a QR code in their emails, though they still have no purpose yet.
That will likely change in the fall, when businesses are expected to have access to a smartphone app that will be able to scan a person’s QR code, according to the health minister.
Details are still being worked out, but Dubé said “all that the business owner has to do is to have a reader, that we’ll be supplying, which is quite a simple app on a phone, and that person will be able to read that to see whether the person is adequately vaccinated,” he said.
“So the load on the business owner is minimal.”
Talks will be ongoing with chambers of commerce to determine how the vaccine passport will be rolled out.
“My greatest wish and that of everyone here today are to vaccinate as many people as possible over the summer so that we don’t need it,” Dubé said.
New Variants are of Concern
Variants of the coronavirus are a key concern for health officials who point to places like the U.K. and Israel that are seeing spikes in new COVID-19 cases.
The Delta variant, first identified in India, is one that public health is monitoring and is expected to become the dominant variant in Canada in the coming months.
“The variants is really what worries us right now,” the minister said Thursday.
On Wednesday, Quebec also saw a recent uptick in cases of the Delta variant, which is spreading fast across parts of Europe and is believed to be more transmissible than the original strain of the coronavirus.
While there have been some reports that fully vaccinated people have been infected by the variant, also known as B.1.617.2, experts say the approved vaccines in Canada still offer protection from serious illness and hospitalization and give relief to over-worked healthcare networks.
Ahead of Thursday’s announcement, Dube requested statistics from the Quebec Institute of Public Health (INSPQ) to shine the light on new COVID-19 infections in the past week, revealing that 95 percent of cases were linked to people who were not “adequately” vaccinated.
People are considered to be fully immunized 14 days after their second dose, or, in the case of someone who has recovered from the coronavirus, two weeks after their first shot.
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